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Health/Life Science Leaders Discuss Outlooks On Their Sectors and Westchester’s Economy

Top row, from left, Laurie Ann Walsh, Scott Edelman, George Poth and Dr. Rajiv Ratan
Bottom row, from left, Josh Ratner, Jill M. Scibilia and Joseph Simone

The BCW hosted the fourth edition of its State of Westchester’s Economy series on Thursday focusing on health and life sciences.

BCW President & CEO Marsha Gordon hosted the webinar, whose guests included Laurie Ann Walsh, DNP, RN, Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester; Scott Edelman, Executive Director, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital; George Poth, Vice President, Regeneron Pharmaceutical; Dr. Rajiv Ratan, M.D., Ph.D., Winifred Masterson Burke Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Associate Dean (affiliate) Weill Cornell Medicine, Chief Operating Officer, Director, Laboratory for Neural Redox Biology and Homeostatic Transcription, Burke Neurological Institute; Josh Ratner, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, WMCHealth Network; Jill M. Scibilia, CFRE, Vice President, Development, Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health; Joseph Simone, President, Simone Development Companies.

“Health care and life sciences are without a doubt the largest and fastest-growing industry sectors in Westchester County,” said Gordon. “In addition to being one of the county’s largest employers, the health care/life sciences sector is also a major driver in the county’s economy with the dramatic growth in new modern facilities from ambulatory care centers to urgent care centers to expanded hospital campuses being built from White Plains to Valhalla to Mount Kisco. Westchester’s health care infrastructure is now beginning to rival that of New York City’s.”

Edelman said that Burke is growing because the healthcare landscape is changing, while facing significant staff recruitment and retention challenges because of the area’s high cost of living. “The exciting things we’re doing on and off campus are expanding our ambulatory footprint,” said Edelman, whose new sites are in Nyack and Eastchester. “Half of the residents of Westchester County drive past our beautiful 61-acre campus and don’t know what we do. So, I have a new slogan: Know us before you need us.”

Poth noted Regeneron’s key focuses are on growing its immunology and ophthalmology franchises where they already have successful medicines, with more in the pipeline. “Attracting the best scientific and medical minds is critical to keeping that success going. We’re not just looking to buy other companies with ready made drugs,” said Poth, adding that Regeneron’s corporate culture, employee ownership and philanthropy are parts of the effort to attract talent.

Ratan said that a recent $5 million grant from Empire State Development will allow the institute to begin clinical trials for chronic stroke, which will recruit companies into Westchester to develop new treatments. “It’s estimated that every dollar of research funding that we bring into the county generates $5 to $7 in economic activity,” said Ratan. “Every $100 million of (National Institutes of Health) funding that we get generates 76 patents, and those patents are then setting the table for developing novel companies.”

Ratner noted that WMCHealth generates more than $4 billion in economic activity across the Hudson Valley. One new initiative is a $220 million, five-story building with 128 private rooms. “This tower is really a response to national and regional healthcare trends,” said Ratner. “Over the next 10 years or so, we’re going to see the demand for high-end tertiary medical services grow by about 16 percent.”

Scibilia said that the United States will need 2 million more healthcare workers over the next decade. “Developing the talent pipeline is really critical and we take it seriously. We’re a teaching hospital. We have a family medicine residency program and a surgical residency program. We welcome high school and college students as interns and volunteers, and also to shadow physicians,” said Scibilia.

Simone said healthcare institutions are sharing spaces at his company’s Boyce Thompson Center to offer patients more options and convenience. “We have found that St. John’s, Mount Sinai, Montefiore, ENT & Allergy, WESTMED/Summit, Columbia Docs, are all there, and the patients have an incredible experience because of that. It becomes a one-stop shop. They understand the brands,” said Simone.

Walsh said her institution’s investment in the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences is an effort to create a talent pipeline. “We’re working very closely with (Iona) as we develop health care programs—not only for nursing, but the allied health fields that frequently struggle. We see constant struggles getting respiratory therapists, phlebotomists, occupational therapists,” said Walsh, noting that her institution is launching an internship and extended training program in September for students to help them pass nursing-certification tests.

The panelists also fielded questions about mental health and the effect of artificial intelligence on medical treatment. A recording of the webinar is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page.

The Series Sponsor is PCSB Bank. Supporting Sponsors were CClean, LeChase, Simone Development Companies and The Catalyst/Westchester County Industrial Development Agency.

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